Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Passersby catch John Cena filming Nickelodeon spot at Al Lopez Park in West Tampa

"You can't see me," John Cena is known to yell as he waves his hand in front of his face before dropping a fist on a fallen opponent's head.

On Wednesday around 11 a.m., a production team hoped that the 6-foot-1, 250-pound World Wrestling Entertainment grappler's catchphrase proved true as he filmed a spot for Nickelodeon at West Tampa's Al Lopez Park.

"Just a mayo commercial. Nothing big," a crewman said when asked what was being made. Production was concerned that if Cena's location spread on social media, fans from throughout the city would converge on set for a peek.

But comically, as he fibbed, another crew member simultaneously walked behind him with a cue card that said, "Hello, my name is John Cena and I'm your host for the 2017 Nickelodeon's 2017 Kids' Choice Awards."


Moments later, Tampa resident Cena — wearing a grey V-neck workout shirt that looked stretched to the limits around his massive biceps — arrived on set.

The Kids' Choice Awards honors the biggest television, movie and music acts, as voted by Nickelodeon viewers. It will air on March 11 on Nickelodeon.

As desired, everything was shot in relative secrecy despite being in a public place. The only fans were those who happened to be at the park.

Still, it was difficult to see what was actually going on in front of the camera.

Crew members and makeshift walls of white screens to diffuse the intense sunlight blocked observing Cena from up close. The viewing area from the other side of set was nearly 50 years away.

The Times was mistaken for crew and was able to get near the set for a few minutes before being shooed away.

During that scene, Cena single-handedly defeated six kids in a game of tug of war while sipping from a child's toy tea cup in what appeared to be part of an opening segment for the show.

Sitting nearby were buckets of Nickelodeon's iconic green slime that has been dumped on the heads of unsuspecting victims for decades. Crew said they would not be used until late that afternoon.

Mady Guzman and Farrah Zayas, both 22, were on a jog and unknowingly ran past security and through the set. When they spotted Cena, they gasped and asked for a selfie, though neither is a WWE fan.

"He's John Cena," Guzman said. "Everyone knows him."

This marks at least the second time Cena has starred in a production here.

Last year, Cena filmed a spot on diversity for the Ad Council in Ybor City.


That crew, and this one, were staffed with locals, according to Tyler Martinolich, vice president of operations for the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.

"I have no doubt Cena has a large say in where projects film," Martinolich said. "Being able to work a few minutes from your home is a luxury in the film business. He is responsible for job creation as a direct result."

Contact Paul Guzzo at or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Passersby catch John Cena filming Nickelodeon spot at Al Lopez Park in West Tampa 01/27/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 27, 2017 5:55am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.